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Walk In Integrity
1 Kings 9:4-5
“And if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, in integrity of heart, and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded thee, and wilt keep my statutes and my judgments:  Then I will establish the throne of thy kingdom upon Israel for ever, as I promised to David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man upon the throne of Israel.”
The old minister grasped my hand and spoke some of the last words of advice and wisdom that he would ever utter to me personally. He was a man I loved, respected and admired. A man of integrity.
I was just a young minister, as I stood by the bed of Pastor Dewey Chavis, who would soon be going home to be with the Lord. That has been many years ago, but the words he spoke that day are just as fresh in my ears and heart as if he said them just today.
With a heart full of sincerity he said, “Son, always keep your word and don’t ever make a promise you know, or even think, you can’t keep.” Something that many people don’t give a great deal of thought to.
Even though as a child our home was not a Christian home, yet my parents still endeavored to raise us with morals, principles and character. However, when the man-of-God, on his dying bed, felt that this was important advice to be giving to a young minister, it really drove home to me just how important it is to maintain your integrity before God and man.
WALK RIGHT, TALK RIGHT, LIVE RIGHT
For years there has been a basic principle that I have endeavored to live by and again, it was impressed upon me as a child. Please understand, I am by no stretch a “perfect” person. I certainly have many faults and short-comings. However, I strive to live right before God. I have endeavored to impress upon and instill in my children that same basic principle, which is: Walk Right, Talk Right and Live Right and God Will Take Care of You! In other words - maintain your integrity and God will take care of you!
Some folks have various thoughts and ideas when they hear the word “integrity”. Integrity is not simply your reputation or “good name”. It goes much deeper than that. In fact, a person can maintain integrity of heart when the world doesn’t think much of him.
Integrity is sometimes equated with “dignity”, but they are two separate things. A person can have one without the other.
First, let’s look at the definitions of the two. From Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, integrity is defined as: 1- An unimpaired condition: soundness, 2- firm adherence to a code of esp. moral or artistic values: INCORRUPTIBILITY, 3- the quality or state of being complete or undivided: COMPLETENESS.”
Integrity weaves itself into the fabric of a person’s being. As the definition states, it is an “adherence to a code of moral…values” or ethics. Integrity may not always be seen or recognized. It is not something you put on and take off like clothing.
Dignity is defined as: 1. the quality or state of being worthy, honored, or esteemed, 2a: high rank, office, or position, b: a legal title of nobility or honor.” Dignity is an appearance that may, or may not, be real. Dignity can be faked – integrity cannot!
According to the Word, God is not nearly as concerned with dignity as He is with integrity and is certainly not impressed by dignity. God loves integrity. It pleases Him.
DIGNITY MINUS INTEGRITY
Let’s look at Reuben in the book of Genesis: “Reuben, my first-born, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power: Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father’s bed; then defilest thou it: he went to my couch.” (Gen. 49:3-4 KJV)
To be the first-born son in a Jewish family was to be born into a position of great dignity. Power and authority was the birthright of the first-born.
Reuben had the dignity of that position, but because he had no integrity he lost his position. He was weak in will power to restrain lust and lost his place as first-born. He sacrificed his birthright, like Esau, to his passion and, as a result, his position was given to Joseph.
During it’s history, the Tribe of Reuben was inferior in position and power: Dignity without integrity.
The Pharisees, religious “leaders”, were Christ’s bitterest enemies. They were a prime example of dignity minus integrity.
They maintained a very dignified appearance. They had a “high rank, office or position.” They had a “legal title of nobility or honor.” They were esteemed with great honor as “being worthy”, but Jesus called them “hypocrites”. He told them they were like white-washed sepulchres, or graves, that appeared beautiful outwardly, but within they were full of “dead men’s bones”, and rottenness and uncleanness (Matthew 23:27). He went on to say that outwardly they appeared “righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity”.
So, you see they held plenty of dignity, but lacked immensely in the integrity department! And so it is with many today who hold positions of dignity in politics, law, religion, etc. – Dignity with no integrity.
Politicians taking money under the table for political “favors”. Lawyers advising people to take actions that they will later suffer the consequences for, but all these kinds of attorneys are concerned with is lining their own pockets. Church leaders and pastors who sometimes use their positions for power plays or to put on heirs, instead of being used as channels of blessing.
Now, let’s look just a bit at what God thinks concerning integrity. First, we go to 1 Kings 9:4-5. God told Solomon, “And if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked in integrity of heart, and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded thee, and wilt keep my statutes and my judgments: Then I will establish the throne of thy kingdom upon Israel for ever, as I promised to David thy father, saying, ‘There shall not fail thee a man upon the throne of Israel.’” Here God makes a promise based upon the condition of “integrity of heart”.
The Psalmist David, in his testimony Psalm 26, says in verses 8-11, “Lord, I have loved the habitation of Thy house, and the place where thine honour dwelleth. Gather not my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloody men: In whose hands is mischief, and their right hand is full of bribes. But as for me, I will walk in mine integrity: redeem me, and be merciful unto me.”
David was saying, “in all my public trust I will walk upright and pay strict attention to truth, justice and mercy. I will not plan evil, use public trust to enrich myself, or give bribes as the wicked do.”
Notice what God told satan concerning Job: “And the Lord said unto satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? And still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause” (Job 2:3 KJV). Job had lost all that he had, including his family, and yet God said that he was holding fast, he had a vice-grip on his integrity.
When the friends of Job came and implied to him that he had done something to cause all of these problems, Job told them, “God forbid that I should justify you: till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me” (Job 27:5 KJV). Job was conscious of his integrity and sincerity, and nothing could induce him to abandon that position. He declared: “I will not agree with you as long as I live!”
In chapter 31, verse 6, Job states, “Let me be weighed in an even balance, that God may know mine integrity.” If there is one thing that impresses God, it isn’t dignity, but integrity. Job may have not looked very dignified, but he maintained his integrity.
Integrity doesn’t just happen or is something one is born with. It is something that is worked on and built upon. I once heard a very well-known pastor say something that has stuck with me for a number of years now. He said, “for a man to commit sin, he doesn’t have to do anything. He can just sit in his chair at home and commit sin. But, if a man is going to live right, he has to work at it.”
I work at maintaining my integrity. I have learned that if you lose everything else, including dignity, that you can hold fast your integrity.
Integrity causes you to do what’s right, regardless of how insignificant, inconvenient, or sometimes incomprehensible to the natural mind.
In the post office several years ago, I went to buy a couple of money orders totaling around $1300.00. The postal employee made an error he did not catch and was only going to charge me $700.00. I pointed the mistake out to him. He was a little shaken and thanked me profusely. He told me I could have walked out six hundred dollars richer and he would have never known where the shortage came from. He went on to say that is what many folks would have done. I told him that I would know it and that I like to be able to sleep at night.
A lady at the bank one day overpaid me by about $250.00 from a check I had cashed. I was at the drive-though and in a little of a hurry, so I proceeded to count the money while driving down the street. When I realized there was an error, I turned around and went back to the bank. I went inside to the teller and gave her back the cash she had overpaid. That’s just the right thing to do.
Some people say, “Not me boy, that would have just been their loss and my gain.” But, someone would have had to pay the shortage. And you will not really gain, but actually lose in the long run.
Even when I was a child growing up, my dad was not a Christian at the time (he did give his life to Jesus about 25 years before he went home to be with the Lord). However, he was a man of integrity. If Billy Parnell told you something, you could take it to the bank! He was always an honest, hard-worker that provided for his family and paid his bills. A man of character, a man of integrity. I guess some of that was just inbred in me, but as a Christian, God calls us all to walk in integrity!
There are many people of integrity who have influenced my life. People who love God and want to please Him. Too many to even begin to list here. People who have determined to maintain integrity of heart before the Lord.
Oh, that God could say of us as He said of Job: “Hast thou considered my servant… he holdeth fast his INTEGRITY…”!